The prestigious Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) at Stony Brook University Renaissance School of Medicine is training the next generation of medical scientists, and last year received its largest ever award from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), at $3.7 million over five years.
The program has received funding from the NIH every year since 1992. The funding will allow the program to continue its mission and grow in ways that keep pace with changing times.
Founded 40 years ago by Arnie Levine and Paul Fisher, the eight-year MD/PhD program selects just eight students each year from an average applicant pool of around 300, with a stable program size of around 64 students. . The program strives to ensure that its student body represents the nation’s ethnic, racial, and gender diversity, with students hailing from across the country, from colleges and universities large and small. Key commonalities among its students are a demonstrated love of science, a commitment to translational research as a career path, and an awareness of what it entails to be a healthcare professional.
On average, students leave the program with two first authors and three published collaborative scientific papers, win multiple awards, and pursue highly prestigious residency programs across the country that are suitable for their further development.
“We try to [create] a mindset where they identify themselves neither as pure basic scientists nor as clinicians, but as a hybrid and unique breed that examines medical issues from a scientific perspective and does translational research that will ultimately affect , the way therapeutics and patients are treated,” said Michael Frohman, MSTP co-director and chair of the Department of Pharmacological Sciences at the Renaissance School of Medicine, who co-directs the program with fellow science faculty member Markus Seeliger. pharmacological.
Upon completion of the program, graduates tackle some of the most pressing medical issues of the day, with the majority going on to pursue careers in top university medical departments, the NIH, and more recently, biotechnology companies. .
“Eventually a good number of people, and it’s been increasing over time, are getting into biotech,” Frohman said.
For former students like Saul Siller, it’s the “thrill of discovery” that calls them to the program. “That kind of thrill of being able to…really advance knowledge was something that I realized would be very important to me in my career,” he said. “I really ended up falling in love with research biology and being a scientist.”
For many students like Siller, Stony Brook’s MD/PhD program is just the beginning. Siller is currently completing an anesthesia residency at Yale University and expects a few more years of research and, ideally, a fellowship before settling into a permanent position. However, the foundation he picked up at the Stony Brook program is something he feels will stay with him well into the future.
“There’s a certain feeling about my time in the MD/PhD program at Stony Brook that’s really almost indescribable,” he said. “The fact that I’ve grown so much as a person, as a professional. I’ve learned skills that are so important going forward. I’ve gained real friendships that will last a lifetime. I’ve gained mentors who are important to me to this day. I don’t want to underestimate how important all of this was to me.
Funding for the program supports trainee stipends, tuition, health insurance and fees, and provides additional resources to enhance the training environment. The program is further supported in roughly equal parts by the Renaissance School of Medicine, faculty mentors, and the students themselves, who have a fantastic success rate of almost 2/3 in obtaining scholarships. NIH personnel to support their training in addition to the parental grant. .
In addition to the established curriculum, Frohman hopes to use the funds to expand further to meet new and changing opportunities for graduates. He finds that graduates of the program are increasingly finding opportunities outside of academia and medicine, where the skills they learn through the program are in high demand.
“I’ve seen more and more people who have been in universities for 10-15 years saying ‘there are start-ups that recognize the value of my expertise…and they’re going to bring me in and give me a budget and a higher bonus, salary and resources to make things happen that I won’t be able to do at a university, so it’s a really interesting transition that we’re seeing now.
Frohman is also interested in looking at ways to increase the community reach of the program, as well as the diversity of incoming students.